Director : Rob Zombie
Screenplay : Rob Zombie (based on a film written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill)
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2007
Stars : Malcolm McDowell (Dr. Samuel Loomis), Scout Taylor-Compton (Laurie Strode), Brad Dourif (Sheriff Lee Brackett), Tyler Mane (Michael Myers), Daeg Faerch (Michael Myers, age 10), Sheri Moon Zombie (Deborah Myers), William Forsythe (Ronnie White), Danny Trejo (Ismael Cruz), Danielle Harris (Annie Brackett), Skyler Gisondo (Tommy Doyal), Jenny Gregg Stewart (Lindsey Wallace), Hanna Hall (Judith Myers), Dee Wallace (Cynthia Strode)
In yet another needless retread of a classic '70s American horror movie, rocker-turned-director Rob Zombie's prequel-cum-remake of John Carpenter's Halloween does its best to distort everything that worked in the original in its bid for “improvement.” Where Carpenter's 1978 classic was a bare-bones primal thriller that worked precisely because it wasn't weighed down with heavy-handed explanation and motivation, Zombie turns his version into a long slog through cliché psychological explication, in essence explaining why the hulking Michael Myers is the way he is (apparently, Zombie didn't pay attention to the borefest that was Hannibal Rising, another needless foray into the reasoning behind one of pop culture's great psycho-villains).
In the process, Zombie tears down the small-town banality that made the original Halloween so memorable. Fascinated with everything grimy and tactless (he has a special affinity for long greasy hair on virtually every character), Zombie turns the fictional Haddonfield, Illinois, once the very epitome of heartland banality, into another trashy freakshow (when he later tries to present it as Normal Town, U.S.A., it's too late--the damage is done). If Carpenter's film planted the idea that the worst evil could emerge in the dullest of families, a truly frightening concept, Zombie's film reassures us that psychos only emerge from shabby depravity, which makes his Halloween the very essence of reactionary conservatism.
Unfortunately, this means we have to begin the film in Zombie's reimagined Myers household, which is defined primarily by greasy family members shrieking obscenities at each other. The family is led by Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie), a semi-sympathetic stripper whose husband (William Forsythe) is a callous brute whose already poison-bitter personality is not improved by his being in a wheelchair. The oldest daughter, Judith (Hanna Hall), is already well on her way to being a burden on society, while 10-year-old Michael (Daeg Faerch) quietly kills animals upstairs while enduring torment from his older sister and stepdad. When Michael finally begins killing people, his first victims are all previous aggressors who victimized him, so does this mean Zombie wants us to have sympathy for him? It seems that way, but once 15 years have passed, Michael has morphed into a hulking mute (Tyler Mane) with no discernible personality.
Once this point in the story has been reached, Halloween essentially turns into a retread of the greatest moments in Carpenter's original. We are introduced to Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), who is the sweetest and most virginal of all her friends, although in Zombie's worldview, that might not be enough to ensure her survival at the end. When Myers breaks free of his institution, he returns to his home town and starts stalking babysitting teenagers, which is explained via plot points lifted from Halloween II (1981). Again Myers is pursued by his psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell, truly slumming), although Zombie's inclusion of scenes in which Dr. Loomis interacts with young Michael does nothing to enhance their relationship. Dr. Loomis was always more of a convenient means of plot information, always on hand to expound on Myers' abject evil nature. Now that Zombie wants us to see Myers as a victim-turned-victimizer, Dr. Loomis' proclamations of evil no longer fit.
While Zombie's work is not to everyone's taste, he has a gonzo approach that works when the material fits. The gallows humor of his earlier films is all but missing in Halloween, and when he tries to shoehorn it in, it feels forced. He also overcompensates with his cavalcade of cameo appearances by actors associated with '70s and '80s horror cinema. While there is a certain amount of fun to be had in seeing familiar faces like Dee Wallace (Cujo) as Laurie's mom, Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead) as a truck driver, and Udo Kier (Flesh for Frankenstein as a psychiatrist, it's just kind of creepy seeing Danielle Harris, the tyke actress who was terrorized by Myers in Halloween 4 (1988) and Halloween 5 (1989), getting topless and bloody as one of Laurie's doomed friends.
Of course, Zombie's Halloween is also much bloodier than Carpenter's original (although less bloody than Zombie's other films), which was one of those horror thrillers that constantly made you think you saw more than you did. All of Carpenter's careful artistry and malevolent use of the widescreen frame is also jettisoned in favor of Zombie's more visceral, sledge-hammer approach, which goes straight for the jugular every time. When he appropriates Carpenter's unforgettable theme music, it feels tacked on and tacky, pretty much like the film itself.
Copyright ©2007 James Kendrick
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All images copyright ©2007 Dimension Films